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Third speaker of the House nominee Tom Emmer drops out

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tell me if you've heard this one before. The House is in paralysis as House Republicans struggle to find a speaker. For several hours today, House Republican Whip Tom Emmer became their third speaker nominee in as many weeks. But in an internal tally, about two dozen members voted against him and, encouraged by former President Trump, too many were dug into that opposition. By later this afternoon, Emmer had dropped out. And now Republicans are weighing a plan to start over again. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is with us now. Hey there.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I mean, tell me more about how all this went down today.

GRISALES: Right. It's pretty incredible in terms of how quickly all of this turned in a matter of hours. There were jokes for Emmer that he was going to see luck. Third time was going to be the charm, but it was not. The conference had moved through several rounds of internal votes earlier this morning as they narrowed down a slate of candidates from eight down to one, to Emmer. But even after he first clinched a majority of votes - 117 in that room - they revoted afterwards, and there were still too many who were noes - not enough, it appeared, that they would be movable.

So as those rounds played on, many members grew skeptical that Emmer could close a deal. One of those, Pete Sessions of Texas, said that about seven or eight of these members addressed Emmer, and they did not appear that they were convinced that he should be the speaker. Sessions himself predicted before they reconvened this afternoon that they would have to revisit the slate of candidates again with Emmer if he were to step down. And as we've seen, he's become the shortest tenure yet this month of a nominee to become speaker.

KELLY: Were there actual issues at play here, like policy issues, that took down his bid for speaker?

GRISALES: Yes, there was. Members raised questions about his support of former President Trump, for example. He had endorsed him in 2016 and 2020, but his loyalty has been questioned in recent years. For example, he has not endorsed Trump for president in this upcoming election, and he previously voted to certify the 2020 presidential election. And these days, that can hurt you as a speaker nominee in this conference.

KELLY: And you mentioned Trump a couple of times there. How large does he loom over all this?

GRISALES: Very large. He had said earlier today that Emmer should not be speaker, and that really seemed to fuel his detractors in that room today. And in terms of framing these attacks, these really speak directly to House Republicans. And so they followed his lead there. I spoke to one member, Mike Johnson, who was one of these original candidates, and he tried to say that they could move past this, but apparently they could not.

KELLY: What now?

GRISALES: So according to my colleague Deirdre Walsh, there is a plan to start over yet again - another candidate forum tonight. This is how we started the week. Monday evening, all of these candidates made their pitches to the conference. And so that looks like where they're going to go again this evening with candidates making pitches - could be new candidates this evening, could include previous candidates, for example. Now the acting speaker, Patrick McHenry, is also talking about what the conference rules are, what the next steps are. So they're starting all over. But the ending is unclear, and they face a lot of pressure to come to some sort of solution. We are just a few weeks away now from a government shutdown deadline, and many members want to move on aid for Israel, showing support for Israel. But again, they appear stuck. So we'll see what happens.

KELLY: That is NPR's very busy congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.